It's been a long news-cycle time since I've been able to blog on this. Inertia, depression, a fuck-it-all affect, cloud cover, constant rain in Spain, all that. So many losses recently, meaning so many diminished possibilities, so much more clouds of doom. A feeling humankind is stupid, greedy, hopeless -- all of 'em "turkeys voting for Christmas". But an analytic realization also that it isn't popular will at all so much as clever manipulators of the levers of "democracy" that have resulted in such a string of losses in USA, Brazil, Bolivia, Britain all with direct consequences at the COP 25.
The COP 25 concluded with a very compromised agreement. It was widely judged a failure. The grim recap on Democracy Now tells the story in detail...
The failure was mainly due to the intransigence of USA and Brazil, said reports. So the minority white supremacist neo-fascists, elected through gross manipulation of their "democracies", are to blame.
Or it's human nature – the comforts we enjoy, the luxury environments of the petroleum age, the innumerable safeties and conveniences that permeate every aspect of modern life. We are carbon-exhaling methane-expelling animals, and the world is our comfy den.
The ragged unsatisfying disappointing end to the COP 25 in Madrid plunged me into a depression. Can this collective world failure by the old white oil men who run our reality have any upside?
At least the screaming has gotten a little louder. People are going to jump into their cars anyhow and head off to – places they might could walk, bike or take a bus to, but they might feel a twinge of guilt on how they lead their lives. You think? The individual behavior solution...
Wait. Is it my job to be upset and depressed? Is that the best you can do? I spent a good deal of my youth upset about US foreign policy, about the vicious behavior of imperium. On that front, nothing has much changed. It’s just now less out of sight, thanks to global mediasphere. We follow in the footsteps of de las Casas and Mark Twain in bitching about it, and trying to raise the old hue and cry…
Not everything that is faced can be changed; but nothing can be changed until it is faced.
-- James Baldwin, quoted by XR at rebellion.earth
Blood Debt – Carbon Over-Spending and the Question of Loss & Damage
I’ve written in earlier posts about the mistreatment of indigenous peoples in frontline communities. It’s nothing new. These are the people under the cow-catcher of the railroad train of progress. They’re still being shot down in the South American countryside by who-knows-who, and investigated by the officials of who-really-cares. And in Canada, the Mounties are getting ready to shoot to kill indigenous water protectors resisting oil pipeline construction across their unceded lands.
Who Will Pay?
But as tiny island nations are already disappearing, and millions stand to be displaced – the big question of how to construct a sufficient global response to climate change remains unaddressed.
Saleemul Huq explains in UN-ese: “The specific technical point here in Madrid … is something called the review of the Warsaw International Mechanism on Loss and Damage. The developing countries have a united front here. We want that review to take it forward with an implementation arm and a finance arm. And the finance part is something that the United States is completely against. And so far we haven’t got a decision on that." Huq is a climate scientist and director of the International Centre for Climate Change and Development in Bangladesh, advising the bloc of Least Developed Countries in the climate negotiations.
Just as in “the resistance” to Rump in USA, people involved in the UN process turn to law. And, while authoritarians from Rump to Netanyahu are openly contemptuous of legal process, it does serve to bend opinion of those who value civil society, norms of behavior, and not being capriciously murdered by others.
It is the intention of the IAI’s International Tribunal on Evictions (mentioned in the previous post) to create a different class of human rights. Climate refugees have no rights. The Central Americans moving to the North Ameican border can only claim asylum based on persecution by governments, rights – (non-respected as even those were) – based upon the tragedies of the last major war.
Lawyers work for the villains in the piece as well, as the notorious right-wing ALEC group designs copycat legislation to repress water defenders, those who oppose and resist pipeline construction in North America.
As for Art….
The famous whale of my earlier posts finally made its appearance on the streets of Madrid, although I missed the parade. It was the centerpiece, the symbolic casket, in a funeral march for the death of the seas – Marcha de los Mares Muertos. As a peninsular country with a large fishing indusry, Spain is more sensitive to problems of the sea. The great inland sea lake, Mar Menor, suffers high pollution, a crisis marked by recent mass asphyxiations of thousands of fishes.
This funeral procession was first assayed in England. A byproduct of the switch of COP location from South America to Europe was that suddenly many English and European activists could come. XR groups could share skills and contacts. While I could wish that some more of my friends on the art left had been involved, the solidarity shown the indigenxs and XR internationals by Madrid’s institutions was generous – from the UGT union building in the city center given over to serve as an impromptu hostel and organizing center to the multi-purpose building on the UCM campus which was the site of the Cumbre Social meetings.
(I can’t really imagine that level of institutional soldarity from the milquetoast institutions of the USA, although we’ll see what happens in Milwaukee during the 2020 Democratic convention.)
All of this was a relief after the eviction of La Ingobernable had deprived Madrid’s left of a central city organizing site.
Elite Art Influencers
I popped into one institutional art event, a “COP25 side event,” at the Caixa Forum organized by @artofchange21, supported by the French Schneider Electric Foundation. They had an exhibition up in Chile, where a lot of climate-related events went on.
The idea of the project is to present artists and entrepreneurs together. Very neoliberal, yeah, or as one artivist on my Telegram group said, “a crock of shite.” Even so, ideas are ideas, and we can all use more of them.
The Madrid talk was sparsely attended, evidence of the lack of lead time institutions need to mobilize their cadres of indentured learners (students). How much more useful, I imagine, might this event have been had it been presented at the Cumbre Social at UCM?
Fernando Garcia Dory of Campo Adentro was on the panel, which lured me. A ruralist intellectual, Garcia Dory comes from social movements. He received a prize from Creative Time, which is how I met him. Campo Adentro later organized an informational event for students at the Reina Sofia museum. The work of the group is the most sophisticated I know on behalf of rural food producers and the local food movement.
Michael Pinsky won my heart as a lifelong hater of cars. The artist designer built “pollution pods” at the COP25 conference site, working with perfumers to generate simulations of pollution levels in different cities inside a chain of transparent bubble domes. Example: Delhi has a pollution index around 1000; Madrid is around 30. Suddenly I understood that earlier mask workshop I had dismissed as child’s play. For that level of respiratory distress, there is no coca you can chew.
I was reminded of Brother Nut's project in Beijing, to make bricks out of the pollution int he air. Rather art-of-changey in itself, Nut was working off a Dutch engineer’s machine to extract partculates from air.
Both projects are about making it real. Like old-timey London “fog” (not fog at all but smokestack industrial pollution), this is now something people in developed countries rarely experience.
Movement of Movements?
The climate action movement is not new. But the issue has grown like Topsy, vaccuming up many other social concerns to add to its insistent pre-eminence.
This was signalled a few years ago by Naomi Klein with her book "This Changes Everything” (multiple summaries appear online).
Klein had already advanced the thesis that, while “disaster capitalism” seizes upon moments of collective trauma to make authoritarian economic and political changes, disasters also bring out the solidarity impulse among the people directly affected. This offers a path for social movements, seized early on in 2012 when elements of the Occupy Wall Street movement turned out to provide hurricane relief as Occupy Sandy (the name of the storm). Yates McKee’s book Strike Art tells this story well.
Bad climate events are offering local movements unlooked-for chances to expand and mobilize people. Activists are taking advantage of governments that either can’t or won’t help fast enough, or at all.
Katrina with G.W. Bush, and Maria under Rump are clear examples. While the anarchist solidarity groups active after Katrina, as chronicled by Scott Crow, are little known, self-organized relief efforts impulsed by anarchists in Puerto Rico have been better publicized.
The website Shareable.net has just published a manual in PDF for this kind of solidarity, “The Response: Building Collective Resilience in the Wake of Disasters”.
“Tell the Truth”
XR activists hoist boats in demonstrations emblazoned with that motto. And, while the near-unanimous scientific predictions don’t seem to hold public attention, many artists bet that stories will. Storylabs, sharings of climate grief, prizes for the best ones, songs – all of this is becoming part of the quickly arising climate culture.
“We thought there was more time,” wrote Enmedio in their pitch for the Sound Swarm action, “or that climate change would somehow be resolved by experts with technological magic, but no. Right now, with the 6th mass extinction looming on the horizon, we continue the same orgy of consumerism that provoked this crisis.”
The television programs continue to urge us to recycle, conserve water, etc., in between their advertisements for automobiles. They can’t say what scientists have been telling us, that the key problem is the burning of fossil fuels.
It’s Still Resistance Culture
For the 20 year anniversary of the Seattle WTO protests (Nov. 30 – Dec. 1, 1999), Robby Herbst posted his recollection of this watershed activist event in North America to Facebook (11/29/19). The co-editor of the Journal of Aesthetics & Protest had been involved in the setup of the first Indymedia venture which reported on the demonstrations in the street. (I followed that exciting live-time website, and recall persistent attempts to hack it via the comments sections.) Robby said he missed the international network that opposed the global ministerial conferences like WTO in Seattle – the “global justice movement” – and praised its ad hoc infrastructure.
That infrastructure is still a little there, as I saw in the Koch Kollectiv feeding people at the Cumbre, and also on the street during the march. The people running those kitchens today were mostly children during the era of WTO protests. I delight to see the long strands of popular resistance.
“Twenty years on,” Robby writes, “I’m comforted to know that the movements that have come up since then, BLM Occupy #Metoo etc, are informed by what has come before – in spite of the fact that much of the meat spaces that informed us, like info-shops and zines and free-culture, have gone ephemeral or been commoditized.... Though in the day to day it gets clouded with some of the timidness of existence, 20 years ago in Seattle we proved another world is possible, and today that proof is still there waiting to grow from that fecund mess we call the capitalist empire”.
Next year, Extinction Rebellion and the Indigenous Environmental Network will try to add another radical mass movement to Robby’s list. On to Glasgow….
Links below the note.
NOTE on climate and food refugees –
Quoting Hossein Ayazi, policy analyst with the Global Justice Program at the Othering & Belonging Institute at the University of California, Berkeley and co-author of the report, “Climate Refugees: The Climate Crisis and Rights Denied”:
“Crop failures and droughts in the Central American Dry Corridor [were] behind the Central American migration caravan, the migrant caravan, that dominated [U.S.] news cycles last year." We didn't hear about that. We heard about criminal gangs threatening their lives. The framing of that was not climate refugees. The migrants can only claim refugee status presently based on criminal or political threats to their lives. Ayazi continues, while we refer to climate-induced displaced persons as “climate refugees,” “this is actually not a legally recognized term; [it] is not a term within international refugee protections.” It is “fundamentally impossible to tie a specific climate-related natural disaster to a specific actor of persecution, whether it’s a corporation — fossil fuel corporations or fossil fuel-dependent industrial processes."
Most displacement is internal, where people have some rights within nations. Those who cross international borders have no such rights. The concept "petro-persecution” is invoked to de-link the legal concept of "persecution" from territory – where “the actor of persecution is actually our global dependence upon fossil fuels and the global investment patterns behind this dependence."
There are also "food refugees", people displaced due to "land grabs or natural resource grabs, seed monopolies, international free trade agreements — basically, what people might describe as the corporate food regime or corporate food system."
This attempt to build a new legal definition of refugee status, aligned with the IAH tribunal of climate refugees mentioned in this blogs’ previous post, is a thinking beyond the simple ideological commitment to open borders. That sentiment of humanitarian internationalism remains unconvincing to legions of U.S. and EU voters who are swayed by nationalist arguments from the right.
“grim recap” – I quote the experts Saleemul Huq and Hossein Ayazi on the issues from: Democracy Now wrapup, on Portside.org
|COP25 Was a Failure, But Activists’ Collective Organizing at the Talks Was Unprecedented; Amy Goodman with Tasneem Essop, Asad Rehman, and others
“getting ready to shoot” – Canadian police ready to kill to protect Coastal GasLink pipeline against Indians.
"Founded in 2009, Unist’ot’en camp was the first among a constellation of Indigenous-led uprisings against fossil fuel pipelines in North America – including Keystone XL, Trans Mountain, Enbridge Line 3, Dakota Access and Bayou Bridge.
“Devuélvannos el oro” book download
Mar Menor, Murcia, Spain
Carlos Prieto, "Muerte del Mar Menor: el informe ignorado que alertó de la catástrofe hace 20 años"
“Brother Nut's project in Beijing” – Chinese artist uses 'vacuum cleaner' to turn smog into brick
By Matt Rivers, CNN, December 8, 2015
“multiple summaries appear online” – one is at Resilience.or: Naomi Klein, “This Changes Everything” summary
“Occupy Sandy” activism – E-flux discussion around the book "Strike Art: Contemporary Art and the Post-Occupy Condition,” by Yates McKee, London & NYC: Verso Books, 2016
“The website Shareable.net has published a manual” – “The Response: Building Collective Resilience in the Wake of Disasters”
Indigenous Environmental Network project